Diary Reviews


POUL ANDERSON – The War of Two Worlds. Ace Double D-355, paperback, 1959. Novella. Published back to back with Threshold of Eternity, by John Brunner (reviewed here ). Cover by Ed Valigursky. Reprinted in The Worlds of Poul Anderson (Ace, paperback, 1974).

   Aliens forced from Sirius instigate the Earth-Mars war by taking the form of top leaders of both sides, so that after the defeat of Earth by Mars, the conquest of both planets will be easier. An ex-spaceman returns to Earth after the war and becomes the object of a countrywide hunt after he learns the truth. The aliens are exposed after they believe he and his Martian friend have been killed.

   A clever but obvious idea that ends much too easily. The best scenes are those of a conquered Earth under Martian rule. After the introduction of the aliens and their story, there is little left but the usual chase-and-hunt. Somehow should have been better.

Rating: ***

JOHN BRUNNER – Threshold of Eternity. Ace Double D-335, paperback original, 1959. Cover by Ed Emshwiller. Published back to back with The War of Two Worlds, by Poul Anderson. Previously published in New Worlds SF #66, December 1957.

   Two people of the 20th Century, a sculptor from California and a London nurse, are caught up in a space-war encompassing all of space and time. The enemy is intent on destroying the Being, located in the Solar System, and existing in four dimensions. But as time itself is no barrier to the being, dedicated to the welfare of Man, parallel time-streams can sculpted for that purpose.

   Truly large-scale action, but someone not used to sf concepts would give up early, as the true story becomes clearer only gradually. Brunner takes his concepts seriously, but this is not one of the better works on the structure of time and space. Explanatory material is presented through dialogue and actions of the characters, as they too struggle through the mysterious happenings, and hence is only partial. All scenes are neatly tied together, but the reader merely goes long for the ride.

Rating: **

–October 1967

FUTURE SCIENCE FICTION. June 1954. Cover by Ed Emshwiller [as by Emsh].     Overall rating: 3 stars.

IRVING COX, JR. “Peace on Earth.” Novelet. Aliens bring Earth love and peace, actually a test for galactic citizenship. Length adds little (2)

SAM SACKETT “Hail to the Chief.” Short novel. A processor of political science gets a chance to put his theories into practice. Unknown to the mass of American people, a group of the intellectually elite has been secretly ruling the country, and they ask Logan to join them. But he becomes disillusioned and attempts the murder of the Chief. Quite a fascinating hypothesis, with better than average character analysis. (4)

PHILIP K. DICK “Sales Pitch.” An unwanted self-selling robot attaches itself to a man and wife. Commuter rocket travel described exactly like freeway traffic? (1)

SAM MERWIN, JR. “The Intimate Invasion.” A bathroom is the location of a bridge between parallel worlds. Invasion through romance is foiled. (2)

GORDON R. DICKSON “Rescue.” A spaceman discovers lost colony, but the inhabitants do not plan on being rescued. (4)

-October 1967

ANALOG SCIENCE FICTION. January 1967.  Cover by Chesley Bonestell.     Overall rating: 3½ stars.

POUL ANDERSON “Supernova.” Short novel. An inhabited planet is found to be in danger from a nearby supernova, and the Polesotechnic League sends the Trader Team headed by David Falkayn. In exchange for technology capable of saving their world, the Meresians are asked for a base for scientific study and, of course, a chance for profit. Politics follow. Mostly bland. (3)

HARRY HARRISON “A Criminal Act.” Having too many children may someday be a crime against society. [The penalty may be] legalized murder as the answer to the extra life created. (4)

MACK REYNOLDS “Amazon Planet.” Serial, part 2 of 3. See report to follow later.

H. B. FYFE “The Old Shill Game.” Robots shills are programmed to buy from robot vendors to increase sales. (3)

KEITH LAUMER “The Lost Command.” [Bolo #3.] A construction crew accidentally activates a semi-intelligent war-machine buried deep underground after the end of a war ended 70 years before. (4)

-October 1967

L. SPRAGUE de CAMP & FLETCHER PRATT – The Carnelian Cube. Lancer 73-662, paperback, 1967. Cover by Kelly Freas. Previously published by Gnome Press, hardcover, 1948.

   While on an archaeological expedition, Arthur Finch discovers a magical red cube of stone that gives its possessor the ability to dream himself into any world he pleases.

   Unfortunately, dream worlds do not always satisfy the wishes that produce them. A perfectly rational world stifles ambition and progress. A world where individuality is supreme is full of conflict, with cooperation nearly impossible. A world of scientists has no feeling for human life. But Finch dreams on, looking for his ideal world.

   A disappointment. The wacky adventures promised merely struggle against dullness. As a vehicle for social commentary, this story creaks and sputters. Lots of ideas in satirical form, but interest lags. In fact, the only thing that maintains this series of adventures as a novel is the underlying prospect of finding a return to Finch’s original world.

   But even this is denied the reader. Lots of questions are never answered (is this typical of fantasy?), not the least of which is the possible physical existence of these dream worlds with histories which seem closely identical to our own. Collapse in real life must be inevitable, if not immediate. Such is the substance of dreams.

Rating: **

–September 1967

NEW WORLDS SCIENCE FICTION. September 1966.    Overall rating: ***½ stars.

MICHAEL MOORCOCK “Behold the Man.” Novella. An English bookseller and amateur psychiatrist travels in time to observe Christ’s crucifixion, but becomes Christ himself. It is hard to imagine that this was not written for controversy-in-itself, for it seems deliberately offensive. Much is made of the conflict between religion and science, but there seems to be no real point, as Moorcock cannot justify his version either.    ****

ARTHUR SELLINGS “The Evening Sun Go Down.” The future society of a conquered Earth, maybe. (0)

JOHN CALDER “Signals.” The memoirs of an interatomic signals physonomist, or communications expert. Nothing really new. (3)

CHARLES PLATT & B. J. BAYLEY “A Taste of the Afterlife.” Novelette. To aid in the the skirmishes before WWIII, scientists devise a way to separate the electronic afterlife from a man. Far-out, but chillingly real. (3)

J. G. BALLARD “The Atrocity Exhibition.” Supposedly this means something. (0)

BRIAN W. ALDISS “Another Little Boy.” A parallel between the Bomb and the Pill is made, at a time 100 years from Hiroshima when the associated guilt feelings exists no more. Light treatment is terrifying. (4)

THOMAS M. DISCH “Invaded by Love.” Novelette. How Love can conquer the world, especially when brought by invading aliens. Only the Secretary-General of the UN resists, but he waits too long for his triumph. Powerfully portrayed. (4)

–September 1967

ELLERY QUEEN’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE. January 1967. Overall rating: 3½ stars.

HUGH PENTECOST “Volcano in the Mind.” Short novel. Dr. John Smith. First appeared in The American Magazine, December 1945, as “Volcano.”

   Dr. John Smith, an unobtrusive psychiatrist-detective, stops a clever murderer who is trying to drive a man to kill his wife, thus disposing of them both. Smith is very perceptive in his quiet way, but the story may be just a little dry. ****½

Bibliographic Update: Dr. John Smith appeared in three novellas in The American Magazine (collected in Memory of Murder, Ziff-Davis, 1947), one short story in EQMM, and two novels.

JULIAN SYMONS “The Santa Claus Club.” Francis Quarles. 1st US publication. Previously published in Suspense, UK, December 1960. A threatening letter typed on one of only 300 possible machines; a club where all dress up like Santa. The grand ’tec tradition? (2)

KENNETH MOORE “Protection.” An outsider wants some of the Orleans Street District action but needs protection. (3)

TALMAGE POWELL “Last Run of the Night.” A bus-driver is a killer. Obvious. (2)

HAROLD R. DANIELS “Deception Day.” A man commits a perfect murder in killing his shrewish wife. It’s too bad that justice, or conscience, had to win out. (4)

MICHAEL HARRISON “The Mystery of the Gilded Cheval-Glass.” A “hitherto unpublished” story of C. Auguste Dupin, who saves an artist from arrest by deciphering a dying ma’s last words. Let’s leave it for Poe enthusiasts. (2)

ROBERT McNEAR “The Salad Maker.” Mystery of the Absurd. That’s the right word. (1)

JAMES HOLDING “The New Zealand Bird Mystery.” The two authors of the Leroy King stories use a small scrap of writing for their deductions in solving a shipboard murder. (3)

BERNARD J. CURRAN “The Mysterious Mr Zora.” First story. Would 94,600 people not notice an extra 10¢ charge on their checking account? (1)

ELLERY QUEEN “Last Man to Die.” Reprinted from This Week, November 3 1963. Also published in the June 2004 issue of EQMM. QBI: Intelligence Department. A butlers’ club forms a tontine, the outcome of which EQ must decide. Not difficult. (3)

MICHAEL GILBERT “A Gathering of Eagles.” Previously published in Argosy (UK) January 1966, as “Heilige Nacht.” Calder and Behrens are called to Bonn to complete a cold-war breakthrough in Intelligence. Fast-moving and exciting. (4)

CHARLOTTE ARMSTRONG “The Cool Ones.” A grandmother’s quick thinking gives her grandson the clue to the location of her kidnappers. (3)

–September 1967

HOWARD L. CORY – The Mind Monsters. Ace Double G-602, paperback original, 1966. Published back-to-back with The Unteleported Man, by Philip K. Dick (reviewed here ).

   An astronaut, Terence O’Corcoran, crash-lands on a strange planet where he encounters strange monsters, genies and leprechauns, and the apathetic people of the city Mahtog, who are being terrorized by the Thryn. The Thryn, actually Mahtogians who have been captured and drugged, are led by the bearded and mysterious Brahubru.

   An army is formed and war is begun, ending with the revealing of Brahabru as the original Terence, but it does not come as much of a surprise. It was, of course, the Genies who had made an improved copy to help their created people.

   One gets the feeling that the author was glad to get away from the scientific environment of Terence’s spacecraft to concentrate on the seemingly magical qualities of the planet, but since the Genies are finally revealed to be energy-beings, this story does qualify as science fiction. The problems of language and translations are discussed (pages 60-61), but the author’s efforts do not always seem consistent.

Rating: 2½ stars.

–September 1967

PHILIP K. DICK – The Unteleported Man. Ace Double G-602, paperback original, 1966. Cover art by Kelly Freas. First published as a novella in Fantastic Stories, December 1964. Expanded to novel length form under the same title by Berkley, paperback, 1983. First full edition reprinted in the US as Lies, Inc., by Vintage, trade paperback, 2004 (previously by Gollancz, UK, hardcover, 1984, but with two missing manuscript pages of the Berkley edition replaced by ones written by John Sladek).

   The gateway to the colony at Whale’s Mouth in the Fermalhaut system is controlled by Trails of Hoffmn, who developed a teleportation system which put the ordinary spaceship line of Rachmael ben Applebaum near bankruptcy. The only drawback to emigration is the fact that the trip is (said to be) one-way, but Rachamel with the help of an inter-planetary police agency is determined to find out the true story while proving at the same time that spacecraft could have successfully made the 24-lightyear journey.

   With the help of the suspect UN, the plan for the conquest of Earth – for of course it is one – is broken up. The story is enhanced considerably by the inclusion of Dick’s usual small details of the world of the future, while the characters move through a fairly ordinary plot.

Rating: ***

–September 1967

HARRY HARRISON – Sense of Obligation. Brion Brandd #1. Serialized in Analog SF in 3 parts, September through November 1961. Reprinted in book form as Planet of the Damned (Bantam J2316, paperback, January 1962); also under the latter title by Tor, paperback, December 1981.

   Brian Brandd is recruited as a member of the Cultural Relations Foundation, whose task it is to aid islated planets cut off after the fall of the Earth empire. His first assignment is to stop an impending war between the planets Dis and Nyjord.

   Dis is truly a disaster planet, where men have found it necessary to joining with native life-forms in symbiosis. It is a particularly malignant symbiote that has led the leaders of Dis into apparent race suicide, but with the help of Lea Marees, an exobiologist from Earth, Brian finally saves the day.

   It is a sense of obligation to the human race, in whatever adapted form it may take, that brings the resources of other men to the assistance of those who need it, and forms the underlying current behind the story. Competent, well-told, but probably not memorable.

Rating: ***

–September 1967

   
Note: Followed by one sequel, Planet of No Return (Wallaby, softcover, 1981).

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